Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Q. Where can I find the report of the working group that led to this initiative?

A. The recommendations from the meeting and roster for the group are posted on the NIGMS Web site, Modeling the Emergence and Intentional Release of Pathogens Meeting Report . The concept was approved by the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council in September 2002 (see Advisory Council Meeting Minutes).

Q. Can individual investigators apply for research project grants (R01) under MIDAS?

A. MIDAS is composed strictly of the groups who have received MIDAS collaborative agreement awards. For information on initiatives directed to R01s and other grant mechanisms, go to the funding information on the NIH Web site or the NIGMS Web site .

Q. What is the long-term vision of MIDAS?

A. As a collaborative network of scientists, MIDAS leads in researching the use of computational and mathematical models that will prepare the nation to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases. 

Q. Does MIDAS play a role in planning for a national emergency such as a pandemic or act of bioterrorism?

A. Yes.  The Director of NIGMS serves as the Emergency Response Director and will coordinate the response to a request from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for modeling support. 

Research Groups

Q. What research does MIDAS conduct?

A. MIDAS's research mission includes computational and mathematical investigations of:

  • Dynamics of emergence and spread of pathogens and their products
  • Identification and surveillance of infectious diseases
  • Effectiveness and consequences of intervention strategies
  • Host/pathogen interactions
  • Ecological, climatic, and evolutionary dimensions of infectious diseases outbreaks.

 Q. What research groups participate in MIDAS?


Don Burke (University of Pittsburgh)

Marc Lipsitch (Harvard School of Public Health)


Robin Bush (University of California at Irvine)

Sara Del Valle (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Stephen Eubank (Virginia Bioinformatics Institute)

Alison Galvani (Yale University) and Lauren Ancel Meyers (University of Texas at Austin)

Susan Huang (University of California at Irvine)

Diane Lauderdale (University of Chicago) and Charles Macal (Argonne National Laboratory)

Ira Longini and Elizabeth Halloran (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center University of Washington, Seattle)

Christopher Mores (Louisiana State University)

Travis C. Porco (University of California, San Francisco)

Gary Smith (University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine)

Informatics Group

Q. What is MIDAS's mission for developing resources?

A. MIDAS's informatics mission includes:

  • Developing large-scale computational resources
  • Creating information and knowledge management tools
  • Formulating analytical and statistical approaches
  • Creating a repository for the deposition of models, results, and information
  • Acquiring a variety of data relevant to modeling
  • Testing and validating models.

Q. What group is managing the informatics component of MIDAS?

A. RTI International has a cooperative agreement to develop MIDAS resources and support MIDAS investigators.  RTI International's efforts are supported by SAS Institute and IBM.

Diane Wagener , Principal Investigator

RTI International (Phil Cooley)

Q. Will MIDAS share information and resources outside of the Network?

A. MIDAS has a mission to collaborate by:

  • Catalyzing discussions among modelers, policymakers, and the public health community that involve setting priorities and designing studies
  • Taking leadership to ensure that MIDAS software is translated into useful tools for the public health community
  • Sharing results and resources with the MIDAS network, policymakers, public health officials, and the scientific community
  • Taking advantage of the intellectual capital within MIDAS to undertake projects that would be impossible for any single group.

Q. What kind of computers do you use?

A. MIDAS uses a variety of computers, both small and large.  At the high end, MIDAS is using the NSF-sponsored TeraGrid (http://www.teragrid.org) to run programs on a national consortium of supercomputers. MIDAS partners with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA Site), the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC Site), the San Diego Super Computing Center (SDSC Site) and the Pittsburgh Super Computing Center (PSC Site) for production runs and programming expertise.

For slightly smaller, but still quite large, computing jobs, RTI maintains two clusters with a total of 64 processors consisting of 32 nodes.  The cluster has one management node, two storage nodes (one node mirrors the other), and a high-speed Myrinet connection.  The cluster uses high-performance 64-bit AMD Opteron processors as compute nodes because they can manage heavy memory usage.

Steering Committee

Q. What is the role of the Steering Committee?

A. The Steering Committee is the main governing body of MIDAS. The committee:

  • Sets milestones for the MIDAS network
  • Assesses progress within the MIDAS network
  • Standardizes the data format and nomenclature for the MIDAS database
  • Develops guidelines and policies (e.g., for data sharing and intellectual property)
  • Evaluates and votes on inclusion of associate projects
  • Contributes to the development of a cohesive effort
  • Alerts NIH to scientific opportunities, emerging needs, and impediments.

The Steering Committee meets twice a year in January and May.

Executive Committee

Q. Who is on the Executive Committee, and what do they do?

A.  The Executive Committee is composed of the principal investigators and the NIGMS scientific director.  The executive committee promotes collaboration and coordination of the MIDAS projects and ensures the high scientific quality and timeliness of MIDAS research.  The committee makes decisions about scientific directions, plans meetings, addresses resource and data needs, and implements the priorities established by the steering committee.  The executive committee is accountable to the steering committee.

Q. What, exactly, is the MIDAS Network?

A. The MIDAS Network consists of all of the principal investigators, scientific collaborators, programmers, data and compute experts, and students from the Research Groups and Informatics Group. The Network meets three to four times a year to coordinate, plan, and share information.

Funding Mechanism

Q. Why are these awards cooperative agreements (U01)?

A. The U01 mechanism allows NIH staff to contribute substantially to the development of annual benchmarks, policies, and approaches. Because the program is highly focused on producing knowledge and products to serve a specific goal, NIH staff members play an integral role.

Intellectual Property

Q. Will MIDAS release data, models, and source code?

A. NIH's policy for releasing data and intellectual property is available from the Office of Extramural Activities Intellectual Property ( NIH intellectual property site) and the NIH Office of Technology Transfer Extramural Programs ( NIH TT Site)

MIDAS's policy is to release data gathered from a variety of sources.  Some of the data MIDAS uses is restricted by the provider because of national security or human subjects concerns.  MIDAS will not add any additional restrictions.  Data sets are available to registered users on the MIDAS Portal.

Results from MIDAS research will be available through publication in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at meetings and conferences, and on the MIDAS Portal.  Making complicated research code into reliable tools for policymakers or public health officials is beyond the budget and scope of MIDAS. 

Q. Are you concerned about privacy or HIPAA issues?

A. Yes.  MIDAS complies with policies of the Federal government, DHHS, NIH, and NIGMS regarding human subjects research, privacy protection, and HIPAA.  These policies are available from the Office of Extramural Research (http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/policy/hs/index.htm).


Q. How can I find out more about MIDAS?

A. You may contact Emily Carlson
MIDAS Media Liaison, NIGMS

James J, Anderson
MIDAS Program Director, NIH/NIGMS

Irene Anne Eckstrand
MIDAS Scientific Director, NIGMS